Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Evidence Mounts- Bee Problems


“What’s killing the bees?” Good question and one that’s partly addressed in an article written by Kim Flottum, an expert on bees, who submits material to CNN.

Though the evidence thus far collected is not as definitive as that with respect to ‘Headline’ and frogs, ag. chemicals certainly seem to be to blame.
Quotin’ directly from this article:

“Today, much if not most of that dietary reserve has been plowed under to make way for 100 million acres of ethanol-producing corn. This sterile desert has nothing to offer – except perhaps a tiny bit of the thousands of tons of agricultural pesticide applied to the corn, way back at planting time, that makes its way to the pollen collected by the bees, which is stored and eaten later. That’s not enough to kill a bee, but it adds another layer of stress. And, some suspect, the tipping point stress."

From my own experiences, me bein’ one who spends much time just standin’ and quietly observing nature here in this eco reserve, I’ve noticed a marked decline in honey bee activity. And especially around some of their most favored flowers during prime activity time durin’ the day.

Spiderwort is a particularly favored flower which opens afresh in the morning hours and then more er less closes up later in the day.

For a number of years we had chemical ag. much closer to our spiderwort clusters than we have today. I remember myself questioning, what’s happened ta the bees? Now that land that once grew corn and is controlled by us, has been converted to prairie. And, guess what? The bees, in force, are back.


Ok. Butterflies: “Where have all the monarch butterflies gone?” Mother Nature News work.
These butterflies suffered a 59% decline at their overwintering location in Mexico, where records have been kept for the past 20 years. I think you all would have ta agree that’s a significant loss.

Quote from Mother Nature Network:

“As with honeybees, experts point to American farmland, which is increasingly planted with genetically modified soybean and corn engineered to withstand herbicide applications. These herbicides are wiping out milkweeds, on which monarch larvae feed, in critical feeding grounds in the American Midwest.”

Surprise! Again we have the combo of genetically modified corn and soybeans with new age herbicides and pesticides, winning the war against the environment. Whew!

“Com’on, Dave. Why don’t you tell about the unmarked aircraft,” several in this loose assemblage cry out.

“Not yet. Not yet. I ain’t done researching that one yet.”

The disappointment was what you’d call, palpable, I guess.


The dogs erupt again, announcin’ arrival of someone else’s vehicle. Unless there’s the beep of a horn, or a plea fer assistance, I don’t jump up ta see who’s here. This person, too, seems to be working their way past them barkin’ three, so I figure all is ok. I don’t know who it was that first recognized this late entrant, but a general cry that ‘Dina was back!’ just sorta erupted.

Seemingly all talkin’ as one, of course we wanted the low down on her investigation inta organic farmin’ in Peru. Took nearly an hour of some new introductions and general jabber before discussion with respect ta our general objectives was seriously restored.

“Dina. We’ve been gettin’ all sorts of reply ta our Eco Vig efforts. We’ve just received this manila 9x12 envelope from this Jane Heim, connected with “Spray Drift”: It’s just packed with good info. This is where I first started gettin’ tips on what’s up with unmarked or incorrectly registered spray planes. I can’t thank her enough fer a lot of this stuff, which havin’ her permission, I intended ta use.


Seems she’s not satisfied one bit by way this Warren Goetsch character, who’s the bureau chief fer environmental matters at Il. Dept. of Ag., has been handling numerous complaints from organic farmers and bee keepers, or maybe we should say not handlin’ ‘em.

Quotin’ directly from some of her literature.

“Why is it that you can get back to the victim within four weeks when you find “no violation,” but you keep some organic farmers waiting for an answer for…well…some are still waiting for an answer three months later and counting? Don’t you think that’s a little unfair?
And when these nice, dedicated small farmers and small landowners call you, you give them the following excuses”:

“We lost a chemist.”
“Our machine is broken down.”
“The instrument that is used to analyze the samples was down and just got repaired.”
“I will get back to you…I am so busy now with complaints…”
“It will be another week or so.”
“I see no dead bees around your hives.”
“You need a quart jar of dead bees to prove it.” 

She goes on to chastise him, further, harder, and makes accusation of him workin’ for State of Il. Dept. of big biz agriculture, somethin’ the vast majority of those I converse with don’t have a problem believin’, at all.

“Dina!” I blurt out. In depth investigation’s yer bag, ain’t it?”

“Well, yeah, I guess I could claim that,” I get as response.

Let me give ya some background on this Dina chick:

She was born in Russia like four years before Chernobyl, the nuclear reactor meltdown.

Her family, grandparents, her parents and her, were granted permission to flee the country, all landing in the U.S.

An environmental refuge, I guess that’s what you’d call her. It’s like she’s got K.G.B. in her genes, ya know what I mean. She just loves ta dig inta things.


“Dina, how’da like the job of scopin’ out this Goetsch character, tryin’ ta find out what makes him tick?”

“Do you mean me going to Springfield? Me checking him out close up. Seeing how and where he eats, where he hangs out and with whom, the whole nine yards?”

“Yeah. We might even send ya off with press credentials. Lead investigator fer the eco Vig.”

“Eh. Expenses?”

“Minimal, yeah. We all know that you know how ta live close ta the ground.”

“All right, give me a couple of days to rest up. party…and I’ll go off and see what I can come up with.”

Fast forward, like only a couple of weeks and we’re again gathered out here in the woods, hard spring comin’ on.

“Darn!” Kendra comes on, “Can you believe all the press the bee die off is getting. It’s all over the Internet. Bees, bees, like some sorta switch’s been turned on.”

“Yeah,” I come back. “From the number of articles Ruby May fished up with her computer, stuff that we’ve been sent by others…and did you see that it even hit prime time network news. Yeah…and they did a pretty good job of it too. They hit on ag. chemicals as a major probable cause, them stoppin’ just short of pinnin’ the tails on the asses.


In honey, tested in laboratories with the highest degree of suffocation, they’ve isolated like 150 (and countin’) ag. chemical agents.

Since the bees have to eat their honey to survive the winter, the bees don’t seem able to metabolize all that previously unencountered junk.

This also begs the question of what these traces of chemical agents do to us, when er if there is a tolerance level that us humans can’t handle. “Not to worry,” again we hear from chemical ag.
The hive collapse that is unfoldin’ all around us we’d best take seriously. Much agro business could collapse along with the bees. This is serious stuff, that’s why it’s capturing so much attention. If the bee disaster cannot be stopped, say the bees get, along with a whole mess of their cohorts, kicked into the cyclone swirl around the extinction bin, guess what! We won’t be all that far behind ‘em. Leading scientific thought has us, following ‘em by from four to ten years. Think about it….

“Yes! We definitely need bees!”

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Evidence Mounts- Corn is King


“We get sprayed more and more each year. It’s presently so bad that we may have to leave our farmstead.” And she makes reference to her connection to Ginkgo Tree Cafe, in Dixon. This caught my immediate interest. Soon as I spotted a hole in my demandin' schedule, me and my dogs in pickup, were on our way ta Dixon.
Ruby May had pre-scouted this Ginkgo Tree place out. Told me where it was, the good impression that it left her with. She gave it high marks fer bein' done in quite a tasteful fashion. I wasn't disappointed. Not in the least.

This was spur-of-the-moment, ya understand. I'm un-pre-announced. “Tasha?” I question ta the first young lady I run inta.

“She's in the back, at the kitchen,” I get in response.

Ruby May had told me of the somewhat unique kitchen arrangement, also givin' it high marks. Ruby May's been around. Positives don't flow from her flippantly. Again, she was right.

There are several females scurryin’ around these big stove tops and ovens. Gosh! Did the food cookin' ever exude delicious, mouth waterin' aromas.

“Tasha?” Again I question, this gettin' a brief relay to Tasha, who's just then deep in the back. She gets the idea that there's this gray old fart at the counter wantin' ta talk with her. Wipin' her hands on her apron, she marches right out. I introduce myself, briefly relay reason fer me bein' there, right then. We share hand shakes. First impression, this lady wasn't no lightweight.

I love smart and beautiful females. I had no problem what-so-ever, bull-shittin' with this very agreeable personage. She opened up with her frustrations with very little probing. All the sickness they'd, at first mysteriously, gone through. Herself, her two young and lovely daughters; one was hangin' right there, all ears at first, looked ta be maybe six er seven. And their father, too. He'd really gone down hard, several times, that they directly tied to aircraft applied chemicals. On way-too-windy days they'd experienced drifted toxic sprays that had set them on a dead run fer the house. But you could smell it some even in there. “We could taste it, it was that strong.”


Complaints to farmers did absolutely no good. A complaint got made to Il. Dept. of Ag. An investigator came out but admitted there was very little he could do. Having not been on the scene when the incident occurred. There’s like one investigator for a multi county area. An area impossible for him to police.

They love their six acre place. They'd always wanted to grow their own clean fruits and vegetables. But bein' bordered by chem. ag., they're findin' that ta be impossible.

How many others dream of just five er six acres, out in the country, and doin' just about what they'd planned? Hell! A hundred acres, surrounded by hundreds of other non-ag. acres, wasn't enough fer us. The truth is...there's almost no escape if you live in or around chem. ag. Those livin' in towns ain't free from chem. ag.'s ill effects, either...they just don’t know it, don’t experience it quite so directly.

Easy as I found her ta talk to, I had ta push off. The father of them two kids, who'd got knocked flat by aerial spray, he was next on my list. Dion. He's a barber with a shop just a good block away from the Ginkgo Tree.

Dion's a friend of the Rev. Marques, who's a regular at our Grove Creek Chapter of the Church of the Earth Firsters gatherings. More er less, the Rev. had sorta prepped me.


He was busy cuttin' hair with a couple customers waitin'. I introduced myself and, yeah, Marques had told him of me.

“I didn't meet you, but I met one of your dogs, just the other night,” Dion states. Yeah, I was aware that he and my all-around guard dog, Candy, had met several days before. He was workin' his way to Marques' far-back-in-the-woods, sugar shack. Among other things, Marques taps maple trees.

I was on another trail, headin' in the opposite direction, back to the warmth of the wood stove, here in my ratty-ass little cabin.

“I just finished interviewing yer wife. And I like ta get yer insight on your chemical problems,” says me.

He comes on sorta aggressive, exclaimin' that he had absolutely no faith that anything can be done. He's a complete skeptic with respect to any governmental agency. IL. Dept. of Ag., EPA, “None of them agencies are workin' for us, none of 'em!” He settled some, perhaps understandin' that he was preachin' to the choir. He is a very active speaker, he puts his whole body inta it.

He confirmed Tasha's account of family sicknesses. His own he claimed as quite severe incident after severe incident. He then set to unfolding. To say that he was not in love with chemical ag. is a bit of an understatement.

He told of an incident that occurred there in his shop, just two seats to my left. An investigator of some sort from either the EPA or IL. Dept. of Ag., he couldn't remember which, interviewed him with respect to aerial spraying complaints.

After the interview, to which Dion didn't give up much, the guy took off his credentials and said he could now vent his anger however he felt; indicating that he felt just about the same as Dion, admitting there was almost nothing he could do within the prevailing agency's policies, which was to find every way possible to support chemical ag.

“Corn is king,” was the statement Dion took away from this encounter. “You've got to understand that here in Illinois, corn is king!” this investigator repeatedly stated. 

“Them little yellow planes!” he comes out. “When they show up we pack up the kids and escape ta town. You can still smell that stuff when we get back. Wind! Hell, that doesn’t stop ‘em. You can see the stuff blowin’ like crazy, but that don’t stop ‘em.”


Dumb me. Imaginin' me thinkin' that in a free and open democracy the people were sovereign.
Dion gave me several leads, others I could talk to, fellow complainers. Naturally, I'll follow 'em up.

“You know, Brother David, we’re getting more information and leads on chemical complaint stories than you can possibly keep up with,” Kendra wants me ta know.

“Yeah. Whew! When we first started this Eco Vig, I was a bit concerned with havin’ enough material ta keep writin’ this stuff. Not anymore, though. Shoot no! Oh what luxury ta be able ta pick and chose.”

“Why don’t you do that crop duster plane without traceable owners, or numbers one?” Ruby May wants to know.

“Ain’t researched it, quite enough, yet. But I’ll definitely do it.”
“How about the bees and the butterflies then?” Marques asks.

“The bees, the butterflies. Yeah. That better suits my ‘right now’ mood.”

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Evidence Mounts- More About the Frogs


Dog food, shelled corn, bird seed, and seed potatoes, these are some of the things that me and this Richie fella deal in. We generally find things fer minor bullshit sessions, too.

I don't know what his politics are er, if he's got one, what religious persuasions he holds. Environmental issues, mostly, seem ta fill our talk sessions. Here, we're pretty much on the same page.

He's a fan of the EcoVig and us members of COTEFers, Washington Grove Chapter. After this Mother Jones article was passed to me from Brother Tom, I was explainin’ ta Richie how relevant it was, and how it might work inta this issue.

I gave him the 100% frog kill info attached to the Headline fungicide, when used at recommended dosages, info.

He sets inta tellin' me this story about a wet spot he's got by his house, which, for as long as he can recall, bursts forth in chorus of amphibian music that he found delicious, somethin' he and his family looked forward to come springtime. I assured him that I certainly understood, us havin' creek bottom and wetlands not far from the cabin. That mixed with the night insects is a symphony I love ta drift off to sleep with. Spring peepers, toads, bull frogs, yeah, what music!

Well, he proceeds ta tell me that that rite-of-spring, for the past two years, simply didn't happen. And not because it wasn't wet enough.

And they stopped seein' frogs around the house, out in the garden and yard too. He goes on to tell me that he and his son, while out on their dirt bike rides, here and there, were findin,' belly-up, dead frogs, lots of 'em. They couldn't piece together the reasons why. Too, they couldn’t figure why their dog kept runnin’ off inta neighboring corn field, stayin’ in there for a long time and didn’t want ta come when they called, highly unusual behavior which caused them to investigate. Not dead yet, dazed frogs that the dog could easily catch, that’s what Richie says they found. The corn was like a foot high. Not much leaf cover yet. And them frogs musta been real stupid ones, not understandin’ that they were supposta be hidin’ durin’ the time of chemical application.

I made it a point ta give Richie a copy of the 'Mother Jones' article. We promised we'd get together later, and talk more about this. Which I'm pretty sure we will.

Richie’s property is surrounded by row crop monoculture, which he claims gets aerial sprayed on a yearly basis. Years ago, because of concern for his then young son, he’d asked the sprayin’ company to please notify them when spraying was going to take place, so they could be sure to protect their son, give them a chance to get him the hell outta the area. The spraying outfit said they would but then never did! Richie got upset, is upset, frustrated by their lack of concern.

Since starting this Eco Vig campaign, we’ve had many, many similar complaints. A total lack of concern from applicators who act like they’ve got some sort of special right-away. “Disgusting in their arrogance,” that’s a line that’s been used numerous times.


Ruby May tells us that we finally got a response from Woodley aviation. Well, sorta. 

This is from Craig Woodley, whom, I’m assumin’ is related into ownership/management. Maybe the owner’s kid?

“Are you an Obama fan? My guess is yes.” His total statement.

“Got even a clue as ta what this Craig kid is tryin’ ta get across?” I questioned. For several rare moments us COTEFer’s just set there in quiet contemplation. “What on earth,” Marques comes forth, 
 “Does Obama have to do with our concern here for some local protection from being unwittingly affected by deadly chemical poisoning?" 

No one could figure how this could be a left verses right issue, or a racist one, either.

“Maybe,” Tom comes on, “in his mind there’s the remembrance of the eyes-closed, see-no-evil, don’t get in the way of chemical ag. biz attitude that previous administrations have had.”

“You sure are right on that one, Tom, old buddy. That last bunch of morons just about gutted most eco legislation. Them and their damn lob….”

“Ok, M&M, cool yer jets. Our cause is a-political. Let’s not chew up this lovely star studded night jawin’ more about that.

“As long as we’ve got Craig’s interest, maybe he wouldn’t mind commentin’ on some of the questions I was hopin’ ta ask poor-sighted Stan, me tryin’ ta reach him by phone.


“Do you, Craig, or any of your pilots, have any type of environmental training? Er do ya just know how ta fly a crop duster? If yer answer is ‘No,’ to the first question, well then I’d be glad to invite one and all ta lessons I’m teachin’ my six year old great-grandson, T.J. I’ve a feelin’ you all don’t have much of a clue as ta what yer achieving; a more and more dead general ecosystem. And you’re infringing more and more on our ‘collective environmental commons’.”

“You guys have got to take a look at this fellas facebook page!” Ruby May cuts in, somewhat excitedly. “It’s a ‘look-what-kinda-toys-I’ve-got’ kinda thing. Shiny car, big 4-wheeler, and lots of crop dusters. He’s obviously enamored with his stuff.”

Kendra comments about that picture of him, er somebody else, low flying that crop duster. “Look at the plum of particulates spray that’s being kicked up into the air behind it. An impersis science of death deliverance is what that looks to me.”

“Ok. Ok. Enough pickin’ on this clown. It’s good ta know that Craig’s payin’ attention. And if he’s got anything even reasonably intelligent to say in reply, well, we’d be more than happy ta print it.

“We're gettin' more and more respondents to the facebook work that Kendra has done such a good job with,” comments Ruby May, who pretty much keeps tabs on what Kendra's doin'.

Ruby May then hands me a list of those respondents that she thinks I should make more direct contact with....

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Evidence Mounts- Volume 3

Continued From Volume 2-

You might, er might not, recall that we ended our last eco Vig discussin’ our mission statement, Kendra seemingly implying that we need to broaden it, expand upon it some…discussing this it was thrown out there that we should be shottin’ fer a complete ban on that whole family of deadly concoctions bein’ thrust upon the natural biota, and, in turn, upon all of us. “Remember DDT!?” numerous times, the Manure Man shouted out. That meetin’ came to a close. About two weeks later we rejoined again.

“Ok....you raucous assemblage, I can tell by the way the dogs are raisin' hell, that somebody else has just showed up. Hope it’s my buddy Tom. And not the law. Yeah. I can tell by the way whomever it is, their workin' their way through and passed those beasts. Yeah! It’s Tom.”

“Hey! Tom! Com'on in here round the fire where it’s one heck of a lot more comfortable. Folks, this is my buddy Tom. Biologist, emeritus. Long time with the DNR. Brother Tom, let me introduce ya around. This young lady here who wears that constant silly smile, like she's enjoyin' herself, full blast, full time, the one with the fiddle in her hands, that's Kendra. Marques there with the banjo, him too wearin' that 'what me worry' look on his kisser...Oh shoot, you already know Marques, don't ya?”

“Yes, Brother David, we've burned prairies together. How ya doin' Marques? Long time, no see.”

“Howdy, Tom, I’m doin’ just fine. Thanks.”

“I don't know if you remember this old gimped up character, he's...”

“Shoot! I'd recognize him anywhere. I've been a fan of his direct-action style for a long, long time. How ya doin', Mister Manure Man?”

“You can drop that 'mister,' they've got me reduced ta just M&M around here. Anyway, thanks fer yer rememberin' of my past exploits. Fer now, this group has got me pretty well collared. I wouldn't bet that I ain’t one day gonna break loose, though.”

“Naturally, Tom, you know Ruby May.

“I wish I could introduce you to Dina, but she's off doin', I guess what you'd call research, in Peru; the country, not Peru, IL.

“Don't know how many more will show tonight, it’s still early.

“Hey! Tom. Thanks for that great frog information. I reprinted and handed out copies ta these assembled here, and others. I had little doubt that we'd fall inta serious discussion about just this. What did you guys think of that info?”


Marques chimes in first. “It’s... incredible,” he comes out with while sadly shakin' his reverential head. “Absolutely incredible. A 100 per cent kill ratio. That just sucks my breath away. If there were ever reason to come up with a frog eliminator, they've found it.”

“This crap's scary!” Kendra pipes in.

“Those that manufacture that stuff outta be shot! er better yet, boiled in oil!” M&M blurts out, emphatically. “And them that sells it and sprays it too! How the dickens did this ever get past the EPA?”

“These chemicals only have to leap the lowest of bars,” Tom comes back. “These companies that manufacture this crap won't do research that they're not forced to do. You can't see harmful side effects, if you're not looking for them. Research costs money. These manufacturer are inta this for right-now, bottom line profit.

“The main chemical formula concerned in this Mother Jones article is Headline, that was one of the agents in that three-chemical-cocktail that was involved in the aquatic kill in your creek here, wasn't it?”

“Yes,” Kendra pipes up. “Tombstone, Headline, and Sniper. We know it’s deadly to aquatic animals, especially invertebrates. We know it’s harmful to both mammals and birds. And now we know it’s deadly to frogs, and most likely other amphibians, and, what’s left?”

“Reptiles,” Ruby May adds in. “But we don't know if it’s harmful to them. What good biological research, done by prominent herpetologists, without a doubt indicates that snakes, and turtles are in drastic decline, too! Nevertheless, that's quite an indictment. Why not just say, especially the way they're mixin' this junk together, and the way it’s applied...’Environment, move over, get outta the way! Make way for chemical agriculture. Ain’t no room fer nothin' else!’ 100% kill ratio for frogs sprayed with manufacture recommended dosages, and their deaths after contact, happens rapidly, like from 6-8 hours. Incredible.”

“And as you've read, gang, er maybe group, is better, this wasn't some test that couldn't pass muster with respect to the quality of science applied. It comes outta Europe, its peer reviewed by Swiss and German scientists. I mean, this is the real thing!”

“100% kill ratio on contact with ‘Headline,” a commonly aerially applied synthetic agricultural chemical that the chemical manufactures haven't done their homework on, not even close. And this blanketed over a significant portion of Lee and Ogle Counties. And because there's essentially no oversight of those doing the aerial spraying, or that done from the ground, either, you can bet that this stuff is gettin' into the ‘environmental commons,’ proved here by exactly what happened ta Grove Creek. Yeah. The ‘environmental commons,’ something we'll slate for further discussion, later, and in depth, I promise...”

“The manufacture of this killer of a chemical, BASF, a huge chemical conglomerate from the EU that once was involved in producing stuff for quick-kill Nazi concentration camps' gas chambers, found that results of this study interestin', but it also doubted that these peer-reviewed-scientific studies duplicated real field conditions and judged them insignificant. Whew!

“We'll quote directly from Mother Jones here as to this huge conglomerate's response to email questioning:

'The study design neither reflects conditions of realistic agricultural use in practice nor the natural behavior of the animals. Amphibians are not exposed to such pesticide concentrations in practice and under normal agricultural conditions. For instance, Pyraclostrobin is not applied to the bare ground but to the crop, and the plants in the field will certainly reduce the exposure to the amphibians. In addition, amphibians tend to hide (under leaves or in the soil) during times of application. Accordingly, BASF considers the risk to amphibians resulting from Pyraclostrobin to be low in practice and under normal agricultural conditions.'  [you can read the whole article here: http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/01/new-study-common-pesticides-kill-frogs-contact]

“The obvious question here that’s just begging to be asked...is...why the hell wasn't research done on this type of problem before this junk started killin' off just all kinds of critters in our, yours and mine, environment? Where is the EPA on stuff like this when ya need 'em?

“Is this an example of corporate double speak er what? How do they know what the exposure to amphibians is...when they've never studied it? Fine. Your chemical is applied by air to the crops. 
Yeah. None of it hits ground. Sure. It might interest you that many species of frogs make their living moving around on leafy vegetation, searching for insects as food. Do you think they could come into contact with these deadly chemicals that way? Seems ta me that there's a chance.

“Twice they mention ‘normal agricultural conditions.’ What the heck, in the always-changing- environmental conditions are 'normal agricultural conditions!'

“Their statement with respect to amphibians tendin' ta hide durin' times of application, I find absolutely ludicrous. Do they, have they, even a scintilla of research data pertaining to that?! Shoot, no. It’s just some PR entity's hack, knee jerk, and stupid statement.

“Those amphibians must hide all the daylight hours, 'cause that sprayin' went on from dawn ta dusk, for days. The reason frogs have such big eyes is that they are 'sight' feeders. Yes they do hunt also in darkness, but bet yer last dollar that they're extremely effective daytime hunters too.”

“Brother David, I love the closing statement in that Mother Jones article,” Kendra expounds. 'If all it takes to kill a frog is a single spray, you're using a problematic pesticide, full stop.'

Marques comes out with a statement about how Church of the Earth Firsters, our Washington Grove chapter, its membership, continues to swell. “We've got Tom here, and there's this fella I know from Oregon. His name is Richie, and he owns a feed, seed, and lawn mower repair service. He's thinkin' of startin' an Oregon chapter. Boy has he ever got a frog story ta tell.”

“Well, David, why don't ya get it from him then?” Ruby May wants ta know.

“I'll do just that Ruby May. This is pretty good, first-hand and very local stuff.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Critters and Plots, Parts 5 & 6

Story 5
Reading over information concerning hazards to humans coming in contact with all three of the synthetic poisons in the chemical cocktail that much of Ogle and Lee counties got essentially blanketed with, one certainly gets a sense of just how lethal this shit is.

There are lots of First-Aid procedures recommended, from just washing up to emergency help from first responders. Contaminated clothing is best discarded.

So besides being deadly to almost all invertebrates (I talked to an entomologist recently who's extremely upset 'cause of butterfly population declines here locally), we can assume that it’s deadly to mammals too, us bein’ them. Shrews, voles, mice, chipmunks, ground squirrels, weasels, mink, rabbits, groundhogs, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, deer, these are local mammals too. What are their first-aid remedies when they come into contact with this deadly stuff? 

What?! They shouldn't be out on private property anyway! But, in ever decreasing numbers, they are out there. Has there been any research on how the mammal contingent of the environment are faring? No, of course not. Any ill effect can just get checked off as collateral damage. 

Invertebrates, mammals, what’s it doing to the avian population? For sure, nobody knows....

But we do know that along with invertebrate population, segments of the avian population are in serious decline, according to the Audubon Society and the Department of Natural Resources, if one can believe in sources like these. 

Pheasants, quail, and grey partridge, all of them ground dwelling birds, are in marked decline throughout areas where they formerly were quite numerous. I'm old enough to have once seen how these birds thrived, and sadly have watched their almost disappearance. And this even though, with C.P.R. ground, there's ample habitat. 

And muskrats! A long time ago, I made my living buying and selling fur skins. At one point, I was handling as many as half a million muskrat skins a year, many of them out of central Illinois; flat country covered in corn and beans and laced by mile upon mile of wide drainage ditches. I could buy over a thousand from various individual trappers (“Just trying to get back some of my corn,” they'd say), most of 'em farmers. The corn and beans are still there. And there have been plenty of wet years where those same drainage ditches have held plenty of water, but the muskrats have been drastically reduced in numbers, and not by over-trapping. 

Just the other day, in conversation with a now-retired but long-time biologist of the DNR, I asked the question: “If ya had ta find a common thread, a blanket you'd feel comfortable throwing over these population declines, what would you lay it to?” 

 “Chemicals,” he didn't hesitate even a moment comin' out with that answer.

Story 6
Another evening in the firewood-ring with blazin' fire, the gathering of “Church of the Earth Firsters,” keeping warm there around it. Wind chill outside that fire ring was real cold, inside there round those flames, except fer ever-changin' direction of hard wood smoke, it was real comfy.

Mission statement, our refining, clarifying it. Kendra, the sorta strange lady who's kinda fascinated by dead animals, she's the one who thinks we need this. Kendra's also the sorta girl-friday who's charged with getting' this group's “face book” organized, up and runnin'. Almost indispensable she's become at this point. The small crowd assembled there knows that they'd better consider what she says, pay attention ta what she wants. Let’s listen in...

“I thought we already did this?”

“Well, brother David, I think the message needs to be
better defined, perhaps even broadened.”

“Ok, I guess what our first aim is to, like, assist greater public awareness as to what’s goin' on with the greater ecosystem that they are dependent upon, whats's all around them....us.”

“And then we've got to figure out ways to try and stop these crazies from continuing their rain of death and destruction,” Dina chimes in.

“I say we arm the public with assault rifles with big extended magazines and tracer bullets. Open season on ‘em. Make it like a three daily bag-limit,” states the reactionary and inflammatory Manure Man.

“Typical, M&M, I say you go back to the drawing board.”

“Geeze, Vig, er, ah, excuse me Broth, you ain't near as ­­willin' to go fer my suggestions like ya usta be.”

“Maybe I'm older, wiser.”

“Older, fer sure. The way yer hobblin' around here ya look like ya been run through the mill.”

“So ta speak, I guess I have been.”

“Back to this mission statement, ladies and gentlemen, if I can be permitted this lose verbiage.”

“Ok, Kendra, Ok.”

Well...after we start to educate enough people, like voters. We have to find some way to make a ballot-box issue outta our campaign. It’s not a new idea. This very issue has been proposed in other areas. I don't know if it’s been adopted anywhere yet. And the agro chemical companies, like Monsanto, are spendin' lots of bucks tryin' ta block these efforts.

“In fact, the chemical companies, which many see as monolithic, unbeatable, have been losing some battles and its costin' ‘em what you and me would consider big bucks. Kendra, I'll give you some of the cases I've discovered. You can put 'em in the evidence part of our blog site.”

Reverend Marques cuts in here, him excited about the growth rate of our Grove Creek chapter of the COTEFers since we initiated this sorta fire ring whacko assemblage. “We've more than doubled,” he carries on. “If we double again in the next couple of months and then double that again and again. Well, as you can see we could go exponential.”

“Yeah, I'm worried right now about the size of the fire-ring. We're gonna have ta make it so everyone brings their own beverages, too. Between that and the herbs do you know how much we're goin' through now? Well, I do. And this drain on my meager resources has gotta stop."

“Kendra, you seem less than completely satisfied with my mission statement efforts. Com’on you guys, pitch in, remember this is a group effort”.

To be continued….

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Investigative Measures of the Great Crayfish Kill, Parts 3 & 4

Story 3
A bit on invertebrates. Past. Present. Future.

Any animal form that’s not microbial and lacks a spine…from tiny worms up ta somethin’ as big as a giant octopus er squid, is an invertebrate. They’ve been around just a whole lot longer than us vertebrates…and most certainly will outlast us.

There simply is no way to quantify how much good they’ve done and are doin’ for us now. And how much we depend on them. So why are we allowing their numbers and numbers of species to crash? That is what’s going on here on planet earth right now, ya know. Daily, species of animal life are sliding into the extinction bin, many of them invertebrates.

Let me give you examples of their past generosities. Right here, close by, in Lee and Ogle County; where we’re still living off their largess, mining it: our once extremely rich and fertile prairie soils.

As native plants crept after receding glacial ice, they brought their invertebrate cohabitants with them. Of course they provided benefits like pollination, but through constant “invertebrate excrement rain,” a very nitrogen rich rain, they enriched the surface beneath them, creating more robust plant life, more invertebrates, more excrement rain and….

Well, if the process is allowed to continue for ten er 12 thousand years, dead plant material digested by other invertebrates and then microbes, all of them excreting’ constantly, all the time…. As you’re most likely aware these nutrient rich accumulations stacked up in places quite deep, sometimes in excess of six feet…much of which we’ve already squandered.

Right “now” what are they doing for us? They pollinate many of our essential crops, they makes us sweets and produce fine silk, and we eat them directly, oysters, scallops, squid…they also provide us with the lovely music of the night if you’re lucky enough at hang out in places where one can hear it, and don’t forget they’re in the food chain.
There is no way I can innumerate all things they do for us, because I don’t know all that much. But I know that we can’t make it here on this planet without them. And that makes me wonder why we’re workin’ so fast and furiously in our collective effort in killin’ ‘em off?

Spraying broad spectrum and deadly chemicals by air sure as hell is one effective method towards stampin’ ‘em out, I sure as hell know that.

I often am able to stand out in a mature prairie field in the evening, just before dark. Damn. The cacophony of invertebrate sound is so vibrant that it seems ta come up the bottoms of my feet.

Now go out and stand in the middle of a corn field. One would think it almost a dead zone by comparison.

In the future…they won’t do anything for us, ‘cause we won’t be here. With us gone the numbers will come roaring back, and through evolution so will many new species. And the planet will be restored to health again…just without us there ta see it. The miracle of geologic time. Don’t worry folks. The mess we leave behind will be cleaned up.
But let’s pay attention to want’s goin’ on around us, right here and now, to what’s still left of the environment.

Story 4
After receiving these two flat-out refusals to talk, what was I ta do? I decided to bring it up for discussion at the next gathering of the COTEFers, which came off as sorta loosely planned 'round camp fire out here in these spooky woods.

Just since our last get-together, our numbers swelled by half. Still plenty a room fer others, though. You bet.


Ruby May was sorta actin' as hostess. Refreshments, etc. Right Reverend Marques set there tunin' up his banjo. And now there's this second musician, too. Kendra. Except fer her liking ta do things with dead animals, she seems ta me ta be...well, not normal, but nice. And crazy. She plays and sings with the Reverend a lot. Then there's this old curmudgeon, a retread who's come to us as if outta the past: the former Manure Man of DeKalb Co. Vigilante fame. He's much older, but he's still got that wildly insane look in his eyes.

The next logical step. That was the question?

“I think a law suit against Woodly Aviation is a must,” that was Ruby May Glamper's suggestion. 

“Not a bad idea, seein' as Stan was found conclusively guilty fer killin' of my fish bait. But this has ta be an issue much bigger than just these right-here local crawdads.”

Reverend Marques pointed to the obvious fact that there were a lot more people harmed by that week-long chemical blitz besides me, even though most of ‘em didn't know they'd been harmed; harmed by a reduced and degraded environment, none the less. The agreement there around warm fire with Kendra gently strummin' the beginnings of her burstin' into a tune, was unanimous. Kendra and Marques. They're writin' a song about the Great Grove Creek Crayfish Massacre. They're pretty good.

“So if we did decide ta initiate legal action, it should be in the form of like a class-action suit. Maybe takin' in everyone along the course Kite Creek drainage? Is that sort of what yer thinkin', Rev?” 

“Yeah, sorta. Let me do some more thinkin' on this.”

“Take yer time.”

“The next logical step,” chimes in Dina, “Is to find out how these chemicals got approved for aerial spraying? dudes.” 

“That should be easy,” chimes in Kendra. “The EPA has to approve all these chemicals. Through the Freedom of Information, we should be able to access all of that.” 

“Are you willing to do that?” The crowd wants to know. 

“Yeah,” Kendra comes back. “I'm pretty sure I can handle it.”

The Manure Man pipes up that he's sufferin' some confusion with this gathering, what’s our stated goal, what er who's our target. And he wants ta know why those settin' around there ain’t addressin' me as “Vig.”

“I'll do the “Vig” part first, M &M. I'm not the Vig. The Vig is retired. The EcoVig is a movement. Much grander than me. Stick around, you'll see.”

“So what are we supposta, how are we supposta address ya then?”

“How about just Brother David, co-founder of the Grove Creek Chapter of Church of the Earth First. Ya, Brother David. That'll do, M&M.”

“As for stated goals, high on our agenda is eliminating deadly chemicals like the ones that got sprayed all over Lee and Ogle counties. The ones that killed all the crayfish and other invertebrates in Grove Creek, and other streams that were affected as well....especially their use as aerial sprays. I think makin' this a ballot box issue by the mid-term elections, here in Lee and Ogle counties....I think that’s a realistic possibility.”

“Yer gonna have to educate John Q. Public then, who ain't too bright, Brother David.”

“It’s not that John Q's not bright enough for this M&M, it’s just like back when we did that Vigilante thing way back...phew, more than 30 years ago. Once ya get John Q's attention you'll find plenty of smarts there.”

“Grabbin' the public's attention, Vig....eh. Excuse me, brother David, you know that’s my specialty. You know what Id’a done and right from the beginning. Do you mind if I just call you Broth?”

“No. That’s fine. I'll answer ta Broth.”

“Yes. M&M. I've a good idea how you'd maneuver. But this time around I don't think we'll have ta stoop to yer odoriferous tactics.

“First, M&M, there already exists a great deal of concern with respect to these deadly chemicals. In fact, I'm amazed at all the like-minded people I've run inta since this crayfish kill thing got started. Now it’s just sorta a matter of pullin' these like-minded folks together. This is a serious game in which numbers count.”

You know, Broth, lots of people are gonna think we're crazy fer goin' up against the chemical- agro-industry. They're awfully big, awfully powerful.”

“Sure. I'm aware of all of that. But I'm also aware that right, truth, has a chance ta tip the scale in our direction. I'm bettin' that should we be able to inform enough people, we can master the fulcrum point.”

Music and frivolity up-staged anything even close ta serious conversation then. The moon came up through the naked trees. Coyotes howled and great horned owls
screamed and hooted as the fire turned ta coals. 

We said we'd soon meet again.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Investigative Measures of the Crayfish Kill, Part 2

As a courtesy…I mailed off copies of Issue #1 of the Lee & Ogle County EcoVig, to those I desperately wanted to talk directly to, ask logical questions of: Stan, that pilot who’d dumped all those deadly toxins upon Grove Creek; and who knows how many other aquatic environments? And Warren D. Goetsch, the environmental bureau chief of the IL. Dept. of Ag. who’d awarded Stan the blind pilot with a mere slap on the wrist fer his direct hit on above mentioned creek. I waited a full week ta make sure the mail did its job. Then it was time ta call and try ta set up some sorta interview.

I’d explained this move during a visit of other parishioners at the first gathering of the Washington Grove Chapter of the “Church Of The Earth First”: COTEF. In attendance was the right Reverend Marques Morel; newly ordained I might add. And also, ordained out here ‘round the camp fire by me. I’d gotten a certificate ta be an ordinator through this correspondence course from school in LA. I’m takin’ one now on self ordination. Interestin’.

Present, too, was this chatty lady, Dina. She’s sorta “COTEF’s” moral and technical advisor. She’s got this weird Colorado/California way of speakin’ that strikes most midwestern's ears as strange, makin’ her seem sorta “Valley Girl not too smart,” but then ya get the hang of what she’s sayin’ and ya find out that she’s not stupid at all.

Also present, “Ruby May Glamper, of past DeKalb County “Vigilante” fame.

We were havin’ a generally hilarious evening, congratulating ourselves there in smoke filled air fer getting’ this first chapter of “COTEF” off the ground. It was agreed that our next logical move was fer me ta try and arrange contact with Stan and Warren mentioned above. Wow! Did we ever have a basketful of questions.

We discussed some “COTEF” rules fer membership, and decided that we’d just as soon not bother. Hell, anyone could join, and unjoin if they wanted ta, too. The only requirement asked was a proclivity towards savin’, protectin’ the earth. Didn’t matter yer religion er lack of it, or what yer political affiliations are er were.

I told ‘em of my planned calls ta Stan and Warren.

“Where do you think that will lead us, dude?” Dina asked.

I prognosticated that most likely I’d run inta stone walls. Springfield er Walnut, I was ready and willin’ ta do the drivin’ if either said yes. And I’d settle for an interview on phone.

Woodly Aerial Spraying, I call first. A fella answers but it wasn’t Stan. I introduce myself, tell the gent that I’m lead reporter fer the Lee & Ogle EcoVig and I’d like to interview Stan with regards to the warning letter fer sprayin’ violations he’d gotten.

Perhaps this was the wrong approach. “You’ll not be talking to anyone from here!” was his terse response. The phone went dead.

Damn…now how was I gonna get answers from Stan to our questions?

My first one was gonna be, Stan, do you realize what kind of eco havoc you’re causin’, how grand the scale? My guess is, most likely not. If he did understand it, I don’t know how he could justify makin’ a livin’ like that. I know I sure as hell wouldn’t want to walk around with that kinda weight.

I’m also bettin’ that Stan doesn’t, hasn’t had, any kind of eco responsibility training, no deep understanding of what an eco system is, like I’m giving my great grandson, T.J.
Before you sprayed Grove Creek, Stan, did you have a good understandin’ of just how lethal the load you dumped was? I don’t think you’re mean-spirited, Stan. But I do think you’re ignorant. If I could put you through the same course I’m puttin’ T.J. through, I don’t think you’d spread so much death around anymore.

When I try at IL Dept. of Ag, I get almost same results. A sectretary passes me off to a department spokeperson who doesn’t let me get through to Warren.

To Warren I like to talk about whether er not he had any ecology training? What does the guy who’s charged with protecting the environment actually know? Ever had a course in aquatic biology, limnology, Warren? Do you understand things like the downstream killing’ range of the lethal stuff yer supposta be policin’? Do you know anything about the synergies when such lethal cocktails as that which got dumped inta Grove Creek get combined?

My bet, my guess, is that the majority of yer answers ta the above questions would be “No.” And considerin’ your position I find that pretty sad.

I wanted ta ask ya about your eyesight, too, Warren. Your investigator provided you with very good, clear photographical evidence that it would be all but impossible fer poor Stan ta miss the fact of Grove Creek and the adjacent large ponds existed, couldn’t be missed from his cockpit there with birds-eye view in the air. Now, either you didn’t review your investigator’s evidence, er maybe you couldn’t see the impossibility of Stan missin’ all that water from up there. (Have you ever flown in a small plane?)

Seeing fer yourself all that gathered evidence, how in the hell could you swallow Stan’s lame excuse!? I guess ya can’t see what ya don’t want ta see, er yer told not ta see. 

Either way, you’ve got a sight problem, Warren.